Eastbourne commuters will face price hikes on the trains next year.
Fares on Southern and Gatwick Express trains will rise by an average of 1.8% from January 2, in line with the annual increases of other train operators, it was confirmed today (2 December).
But long-suffering passengers who travel on the Southern network received some welcome news when a new compensation scheme was also announced after enduring months of travel misery.
Under the scheme, which will go live in January, annual season ticket holders will receive a payment equivalent to one month's travel with quarterly, monthly and weekly season ticket holders being able to claim an equivalent payment for the ticket type. Customers claiming against quarterly, monthly or weekly tickets must have bought travel for at least 12 weeks between 24 April 2016 and 31 December 2016.
Where it has details, Southern will contact the majority of eligible customers directly and a website is also being set-up to enable customers to apply online if they believe they are eligible and are not automatically contacted by Southern.
Passengers on Southern and Gatwick Express will also be the first in the country to benefit from the introduction of the more generous Delay Repay scheme which, effective from December 11, will now offer passengers compensation for train delays over 15 minutes rather than the current 30 minutes. Under 'Delay Repay 15', passengers will be able to claim 25% of the cost of the single fare for delays between 15 and 29 minutes.
Charles Horton, chief executive of GTR, Southern's parent company, said, "Our passengers have had to endure many months of disruption and misery due to industrial action and poor performance and for that I am truly sorry. While they have clearly been able to claim under our Delay Repay scheme, we welcome this additional compensation package.
“It is also good news that our passengers will be the first to benefit from Delay Repay 15 as it is something our passengers have been telling us they want for some time. Our aim is always to get passengers to where they want to go on time, but if we don’t, it is right that they are compensated.”
However, the price hike is being condemned by the train drivers’ union, Aslef. Mick Whelan, general secretary said, “It is scandalous that the government is allowing the privatised train companies to make even more money for providing an ever poorer service. This new price hike – well above the rate of inflation – is indefensible and designed to punish passengers. Fares have now soared 25% in the last six years.
“The train companies see passengers as sheep to be fleeced but it is shameful that the government is going along with them. No wonder so many commuters, many of them Tory voters, are now saying they’ve had enough.
“Just look at Southern – a company which MPs say lets down passengers every day of the year – yet wants to be rewarded even more handsomely for its failure to deliver on the pledges it made when it was awarded its franchise by the DfT.
“We have the most expensive railway in Europe and the train companies, aided and abetted by this Conservative government, are about to make it even harder for people to travel at a time when so many families are only just about managing.”